HAWKEYE and prepositions

I was re-reading the HAWKEYE book by Matt Fraction and David Aja and wouldn’t you know it, in issue #3 there is some dialogue relevant to this blog. The character Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye) scolds the character Kate Bishop (also Hawkeye… don’t ask) for dangling a preposition. Check it out:

HAWKEYE #3 (2012) by Matt Fraction (w), David Aja (a), Matt Hollingsworth (c) & Chris Eliopolous (l)

But wait a minute! Is that really a preposition? Haykeye Barton is talking about the word “to” at the end of Hawkeye Bishop’s sentence:

‘Cause I’m about to.

So is that a preposition? It depends on who you ask.

The word to is certainly a preposition when it is used before a noun and it means “in the direction of” or “towards”. But in this case it would be placed before a verb (drive), which is omitted here.

Some dictionaries, such as Merriam-Webster and the American Heritage Dictionary, will call this a preposition and give examples of exactly what we’re talking about. Here’s MW’s:

Others, such as the Longman Dictionary, also give examples of the type, but do not mark this to as a preposition. Longman actually doesn’t mark it as any kind of word class and just says “used before the basic form of a verb to show that it is in the infinitive”. Ok then!

And still others, such as Lexico, will call to a particle, which is a term for a word-like thing that must be used in collaboration with another in order to convey meaning. Examples would be the particle up in the sentence He tore up the letter or the particle not in the sentence Hawkeye is not gonna make it out of this one. And of course, the particle to, which is used to mark the following verb as infinitive.

I think the analysis I like most here is the particle one. The preposition analysis rubs me the wrong way for some reason. I’d imagine most grammars would also call this a particle, but I haven’t checked those.

So in the end Hawkeye Barton is kinda right – or at least there are dictionaries that would agree with him. No word on what Captain America thinks.

And I can’t believe I’m writing this, but to seems to be a word that is NOT in the Urban Dictionary. That’s a first for me. 😊

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